Monday, March 10, 2014

Tagged: Front Street Hit Hard by Recent Rash of Graffiti

The weather is warming up and there is a good chance you have or will take a stroll down Front Street -- heck, maybe you'll walk the length of Pennsport down its wide, tree-lined sidewalks along the mega-structure that is I-95. While doing so, depending on your route, you'll walk past the EOM baseball field, VSEC Animal Hospital, Mekong River, Rizzo Rink and a slew of traditional Philly row homes.  The things that collectively make Pennsport a tried and true neighborhood.

What you don't really expect to see is this:
Homes and businesses tagged on Front Street from Washington to Snyder
"Sad, isn't it? I'd like to catch those kids and hang them by their toes," said a neighbor walking by as I was taking the pictures for this post. "Sometimes, they're not even kids!"

In a recent email conversation with Conrad Benner of Streets Dept, a website dedicated to exploring Philly through urban exploration (#urbex), we talked about what constitutes "art" and if there are "rules" on the street art scene when it comes to personal property.

"Generally speaking, over the 3 years I have been running Streets Dept, I have found that the large majority of the people who's styles I like, and who I document regularly on the blog, choose to work on spaces that are abandoned, or left to deteriorate," said Benner, a lifelong resident of Philadelphia who is currently leading the charge to have SEPTA subway lines run 24/7.

 "And while I certainly can't speak for the "Street Art community" as a whole, I can tell you that images like the ones you have sent me always cause me to shake my head like, 'come on, guys!' I personally really hate to see people's personal property, their homes/businesses, get tagged up."

In regards to when street art moves in to the realm of graffiti and vandalism, Benner explained, "This is a complicated question for me to answer for many reasons, including people's perceived notions about what constitutes something as "street art," vs. graffiti, or tagging... art is a very wide term open to interpretation. So, it's hard for me to say that this is or isn't art, though it's clearly vandalism."

"Come on, guys."

When tags move from under 95 and vacant warehouse to homes and local business, I feel much like Benner mentioned above -- come on, guys. It moves from a type of self expression, or "art", and into a realm straight up disrespect and helps to negate the hard work of everything that makes a neighborhood special -- it's people and it's places.

And therein lies the problem with this recent rash of graffiti. I've searched the city for Toynbee tiles, admired the commentary of Banksy, and the intricacies of Joe Boruchow. Hell, I posted this photo on Instagram on the latest EKG Labs tag on a box near The Industry. And I dug it, until I saw they also tagged the vacant and yet-to-be-sold Ugly American and Freda Meats warehouse. It just doesn't sit right with me.

Look, this is a city and, to be honest, graffiti should be expected in a lot of places. I even admire it most of the time but this has certainly crossed a line. Tagging people's houses, local business, or institutions is straight up disrespectful and shifts the focus of the "art" to the fact that a neighbor's personal property has been vandalized. Plainly said, it sucks.
An opinion shared by commenters on a recent post from The Passyunk Post regarding the emergence of EKG Labs throughout South Philly:
"Matter of opinion. I enjoy street art mostly, if done in an appropriate setting (not a pristine neighborhood that has managed to keep graffiti and the like out, but somewhere that it is improving the aesthetic). Tagging people’s houses, though, which I’ve read in multiple places, is totally unacceptable and wrong."
If you see graffiti making its way on to the homes of your neighbors, do something about it. Contact 311 to request a power washing service by filling out a removal form. A route that has already been taken by neighbors and the Pennsporter Civic Association

"It has already been reported by us and neighbors, said Dr. Jim Moylan, President of the Pennsport Civic Association. "It will get done because it is one of the more effective city services, but it's a wait list like anything else. Neighbors can also call 311 and report the issues. The more reports the hope is it will bring more attention -- just too many locations for a limited crew."

Contrasting styles at Rizzo: a mural and a tag

These tags face the homes on Front Street

EKG Labs on Ugly American


  1. graffiti , paint markings ,signage if done well could transform an otherwise anti retinal eye soar , a dilapidated function first former, a buildings remains or architectural wreckage. It could illuminate blight. But that requires scope and awareness by the artist. What does it say about our society when even our graffiti artist are apathetic, going through the motions, tagging without intention, its not as if this was even a comment on gentry, the aim is a vacant as the buildings it should be on. What dorks

  2. 311 is definitely really quick to respond to stuff like this, even through their website. Though, hilariously, it looks like the site isn't working right now.

  3. There's an EKG tag on the traffic light box in front of The Industry that R. saw this morning

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